Professor Gill Aitken

Director Postgraduate Medical Education


I am the Programme Director of the MSc in Clinical Education. This role involves leading, development and oversight of the entire programme; as well as teaching, assessment, student support and dissertation supervision of a wide range of healthcare professionals – including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other allied health professionals – involved in undergraduate and postgraduate education.

I am also the School Director of Quality for the Edinburgh Medical School.

I have many years teaching and clinical experience. Before joining the MSc Clinical Education in September 2010, I worked at Queen Margaret University (distance nurse education and inter-professional education), Glasgow Caledonian University (lecturer in dietetics) and Edinburgh Napier University (researcher in diabetes). As a dietitian, I specialised in the management of diabetes and obesity, leading the out-patient service at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.


2021 PhD in Education (by publication)

2005   MSc Professional Education, Queen Margaret University

1991   Postgraduate Diploma Dietetics, Leeds Polytechnic

1989   BSc (Hons) Biochemistry, City of London Polytechnic

Responsibilities & affiliations

Senior Fellow Higher Education Academy

State Registered Dietitian

Registrant: Health & Care Professions Council

Postgraduate teaching

I do a range of teaching, design, assessment and evaluation across the MSc  Clinical Education, Edinburgh Summer School in Clinical Education, and contribute to mentorship and faculty in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, the wider University, and NHS Lothian.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

Diaga Emanuwa - consultation skills in surgeons and shared decision making.

Agata Dunsmore - psychological safety in simulation.

Research summary

I consider research a vital professional activity, and I lead a collective programme of pedagogical research within my programme team, actively involving students where possible. This research informs our teaching which is,  in turn, informed by our research.

My primary interest is in online postgraduate learning communities and their benefits to professional workplaces.

Current research interests

Educational and support needs of online distance learning students; What makes an effective online educator; Developing online communities; Widening participation in postgraduate study; Application of online learning to healthcare workplaces.

Past research interests

Supervising dissertations at a Distance; Understanding Graduate Attributes; Investigating the role of the Programme Director; How learning in the classroom relates to the work environment; Constructing written feedback and developing dialogic feedback processes.


Online postgraduate education in a postdigital world: beyond technology. Eds Fawns, T., Aitken, G. & Jones, D. Springer Nature Books (to be published end 2021)

Chapters in this volume:

Introduction: A Postdigital Position on Online Postgraduate Education. Fawns, T., Aitken, G. & Jones, D.

Online Postgraduate Teaching: Re-Discovering Human Agency. Aitken, G. & Hayes, S.

A Little More Conversation, A Little Less Factionalisation: Thoughts for The Postdigital Future of Online Postgraduate Education. Fawns, T., Aitken, G. & Jones, D.


Papers (date order)

Aitken, G. (2021). An exploration of online postgraduate learning in healthcare professionals: a horizontal conception. Postdigital Science and Education.

Gulasaryan, A., Aitken, G., Jones, D., Fawns, T., Napier, J. & Walker, K. (2021) Inhabited Institutionalism in Medical Education. Medical Education

Fawns, T., Aitken, G. & Jones, D. (2021) Ecological Teaching Evaluation vs the Datafication of Quality: Understanding Education with, and Around, Data. Postdigitial Science and Education 3, 65–82

Cairns, P., Aitken, G., Pope, L. et al. (2021). Interventions for the Wellbeing of Healthcare Workers During a Pandemic: Scoping Review. BMJ Open BMJ Open Aug 2021, 11 (8) e047498; DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-047498

Fawns, T., Mulherin, T., Hounsell, D., & Aitken, G. (2021). Seamful learning and professional education. Studies in Continuing Education

Johnson P., on behalf of Scottish Doctor’s Well-being Study. (2021). What is being done to support doctors during covid-19 and beyond? BMJ Open.

Pokryszko-Dragan, A., Marschollek, K., Nowakowska-Kotas, M. & Aitken, G. (2021). What can we learn from the online learning experiences of medical students in Poland during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic?. BMC Med Educ 21, 4.

Gibson Smith, K., Burns Cunningham, K., Cecil, J., Laidlaw, A., Cairns, P., Scanlan, G., Tooman, T., Aitken, G. et al. (2021). Supporting doctors’ wellbeing and resilience during COVID-19: A framework for rapid and rigorous intervention development. British Journal of Health Psychology.

Davies-Kabir M, Aitken G., (2021). 'Learning styles in medical education: a scoping review', MedEdPublish, 10, [1], 169,

Aitken, G. & O’Carroll, S. (2020). Academic Identity and crossing boundaries: The role of the programme director in postgraduate taught programmes. Higher Education Research and Development, 39 (7): 1410–24.

Aitken, G., Smith, K., Fawns, T. & Jones, D. (2020). Participatory alignment: a positive relationship between educators and students during online masters dissertation supervision. Teaching in Higher Education.

Jones D, Aitken G, Fawns T. (2020). Using a theoretical framework to develop postgraduate health professions education research and practice. MedEdPublish, 9, [1], 78,

Fawns T, Jones D, Aitken G, (2020). 'Challenging assumptions about “moving online” in response to COVID-19, and some practical advice', MedEdPublish, 9, [1], 83,

Aitken, G., Jones, D., Fawns, T. et al. (2019). Using Bourdieu to explore graduate attributes in two online Master’s programmes. Advances in Health Sciences Education.

Aitken, G. & Loads, D. (2019). Experiences of staff new to teaching postgraduate students online: implications for academic staff development.  Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice 7, 1, 37-46

Fawns, T., Aitken, G. & Jones, D. (2019). Online learning as embodied, socially meaningful experience.

Pokryszko-Dragan, A., Mottershead, J., & Aitken, G. (2019). Attitudes towards neurology among medical undergraduates. Neurologia i Neurochirurgia Polska, 53(1), 61–73.